This suburban enclave is earning the cachet bequeathed to it by a legion of celebrities. The region’s palpable lull belies its long history of playing host to calculating women and morally flexible men. As Americans fought to create a united nation on the east coast, in 1776 Spanish explorers explored the west, “discovering” Calabasas in the process. The 1800’s saw copious land grabs, the beginning and end of the Mexican-American War, and the rise (and eventual tumble) of the “King of Calabasas”, Miguel Leonis. Ruthlessly ambitious, Leonis married a Chumash woman named Espiritu – whose father just so happened to own a large parcel of El Scorpion Ranch. It didn’t take long for Leonis to acquire the ranch, adding more and more land to his plot by tormenting and litigating other homesteaders. He is said to have scared neighbors off “his” land with cattle, fires, and even a butcher knife.
Leonis soon met his match in Anna Leffingwell, a pistol-packing former showgirl from San Francisco whose romantic partners had a tendency to turn up dead. Accumulating 400 acres through these deaths, she protected every inch with a vengeance. It’s hard to say who antagonized whom first, but it didn’t take long for the wily pair to end up in court together – where they stayed for over a year, until Leonis was crushed by a wagon and died in 1889. He had lost his balance while chasing off another threat to his land. Neighbors attributed the slip to “too free an indulgence in sour wine”. The true ruthlessness of Leonis was revealed in the reading of his will, where he listed his wife of 30 years as a housekeeper, leaving the bulk of his estate to siblings. A Kardashian-worthy scandal ensued when Espiritu sued for her inheritance, with the LA Times reporting that she’d lived out of wedlock with two men prior to marrying Leonis as well as disclosing a later marriage between the 65-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man. The paper commented that her “frisky affections appear to have been bubbling at a lively rate, in spite of her well-worn widow’s weeds.” She eventually won her case thanks to the inscription on her daughter’s tombstone, which listed Leonis as the father, only to be conned out of her winnings.
Now that sounds like a reality show worth watching.
The adolescent appeal of the freedoms offered by a very Wild West soon abated into a call for law and order. As Horace Bell wrote, “Inhabitants killed each other off so steadily that a human face is a rarity.” By the 1920’s, Calabasas was home to a high school, gas station, jail, and a handful of small stores. It also found itself becoming a destination spot for weekend getaways. This set the tone for the creation of Park Moderne – and the requisite artist phase. The area’s first subvision, Park Moderne bore no resemblance to today’s swanky gated communities. Instead, it was a rustic, avant-garde colony of creatives like John Steinbeck and Jimmy Durante residing in eccentric cottages and studios. The community flourished until the 60’s, when the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District was founded, and its assurance of a stable water supply ushered in the development boom that was instrumental in forming the city we know and love today.
On April 5, 1991, Calabasas finally became a city. Fortunately, it has an entire first life’s worth of experiences to draw from as it continues to grow and evolve into the city it wants to be.
Comprised of million-dollar views, one of the world’s most iconic beaches, and a surprisingly easygoing vibe, Paradise Cove is a little piece of…well, paradise.
The beautiful pocket of Malibu land and sea has a storied history befitting its lush topography. Long before it garnered the name of Paradise Cove, it was Sumo, one of the largest Chumash settlements in LA County. The cove’s protected position and easy access to the Channel Islands made it ideal for fishing and trading. Ancient artifacts and evidence of sacred burial grounds dating back 7,000-9,000 years have been discovered in and around the area.
In 1776, Spanish settlers came upon “Maliwu Creek”, making camp on its shores and claiming the land. Parcels of land were distributed to families in the form of land grants. The 13,000 acres known to us today as Malibu were eventually purchased by Boston tycoon Frederick Rindge in 1892 – for $10 an acre. Thinking it the ideal country home, Frederick had cattle grazing alongside lima beans, tomatoes, and other dry crops in Paradise Cove. He dreamed of turning Malibu into a Cote d’Azur style destination, but an early death prevented this dream from becoming a reality.
High society’s movers-and-shakers started moving in. Legend has it, during Prohibition years, bootlegging rum-runners unloaded their contraband on Paradise Cove’s shores, capitalizing on its nestled location. Shortly before WWII, Frank Wilson and Al Camp purchased the cove, building a clubhouse (where the restaurant stands today) and a laundry-restroom building. The war threw a wrench in their plans, and in 1945 they sold to Bill Swanson, who completed their vision and added a vacation RV camp and trailer park with seventy-one spaces. That trailer park is the swankiest in the states, boasting residents like Minnie Driver, Matthew McConaughey, and a number of high-profile directors, screenwriters, and ex-Goldman Sachs types over the years. Some of the trailers have sold for over a million dollars – to very excited buyers eager to take part in the park’s much-lauded sense of community and general lust for (laid-back) life.
In the late 1950’s, Swanson sold the forty-acre property to Joe Morris, who added in an additional 30 acres he had purchased from Fred Roberts to create the cove configuration we know (and love) today. Its picture-perfect beach provided a stunning backdrop for Gidget and a bevy of beach-party films in the 50’s and 60’s, revealing Malibu’s secret charms to the rest of the world. Morris sold Paradise Cove to the Kissel family in 1964, and they still own it to this day – though Morris’s son missed the idyllic environment so much he returned in 1996 to open the Paradise Cove Beach Café, a family-friendly restaurant dedicated to maintaining the kitschy fun of a history-laden beachfront venue.
If you don’t already know, Culver City is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Over the last few years, downtown Culver City has seen a renaissance which only continues to grow as new developments are completed and upcoming ones are announced. From Platform to The Culver Steps, retail and restaurants are flooding the city.
Let me tell you why it’s one of the best neighborhoods in LA:
Eating. From fast casual restaurants that are redefining what it means to grab a quick bite to haute cuisine, it’s all happening in this small sliver of town.
Destroyer: A breakfast and lunch spot open only on the weekends is a hidden gem nestled between commercial offices. Loqui: Go-to spot for inexpensive but gourmet tacos.Sage Vegan Bistro: Vegan heaven that both vegans and non-vegans will love.The Wallace: The chicest neighborhood pub you'll find.Culver Hotel: This historic building boasts the best happy hour and tapas in the city.
Shopping. With the opening of Platform, a mixed use development a few block from downtown, Culver City has added some of the best retail in town.
Reformation: For the ultimate LA girl who takes sustainability seriously.Bird: New designer destination just steps away from Platform.Magasin: Founded by a former Bloomingdales men's fashion director, this store has the coolest menswear in town. Tom Dixon: The most unique home pieces you'll find for the modern decor lover.Helms Bakery District: Housed in a former bread factory this complex is full of home decor stores for all styles.
Best Coffee / Sweets. A neighborhood is never complete without a good caffeine and sugar fix. These artisanal barista’s and bakers are where it’s at.
Cognescenti - This neighborhood gem has the best almond milk latte in town.Bar 9 - Coffee collective serving to the coolest patrons.Rising Hearts - Gluten free and vegan, this unassuming spot on Washington has mind blowing cookie sandwiches.Van Lewin - Nestled in Platform this artisinal ice cream shop will hit the spot.
Things To Do. Although you are just a quick drive from both the beach and downtown LA, you never really have to leave Culver City.
Ballona Creek Path - This carless bike path will get you from Culver City to Marina del Rey in under thirty minutes.Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook - This will get your heart rate up! Climb the stairs for the panoramic view of the city.Arclight Theaters - In downtown Culver City, park in one of the three free parking lots and catch a movie.Culver City Farmer’s Market - Every Tuesday from 2-6pm enjoy everything from fresh produce to ready made tamales. The Plunge - The municipal pool is perfect for those hot summer days.Soul Cycle - Get your sweat on at their new location inside Platform.Sweat Pilates - Go-to pilates spot in town.Sony Studios - Take a tour of the legendary studio to see exclusive behind the scenes attractions.